I can’t begin to imagine how many vampire movies exist, but I know I’ve seen well over 100 on my own – though I’ll never watch that third-rate, poorly crafted TWILIGHT bullshit. (Stephanie Meyer should be so embarrassed by that pathetic drek she should hide under a rock for eternity.) Regardless, as Halloween quickly approaches, here’s a list of my fangtoothed favorites for those who might want to indulge in watching a traditional monster at home.
Vampyr (France/Germany, 1932)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Writers: Christen Jul and Carl Theodor Dreyer
Based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s novel, this is one of the world’s last films of the silent era. Granted, some footage is missing, but there’s more than enough to keep one engaged in a creepy tale, with disturbing effects by Henri Armand. Follow Allan Grey (Julian West), a man obsessed with the supernatural, as he visits an inn where he discovers vampires out for blood. This is an excellent work of early cinema.
Lifeforce (UK/USA, 1985)
Director: Tobe Hooper
Writers: Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby
O’Bannon (of ALIEN fame) and Jakoby crafted a trippy tale from the talking head monotony of Colin Wilson’s boring novel. The story involves the space shuttle, Churchill, which discovers a ship of three vampires holed up in Haley’s Comet. Once those three are brought back to London, a nightmare ensues. O’Bannon hated what Hooper did with the script, but John Dykstra’s practical effects are a blast, and Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, and Frank Finlay deliver. It’s a fun adventure where Mathilda May will blow your mind as the Space Girl.
Vampire’s Kiss (1988)
Director: Robert Bierman
Writer: Joseph Minion
Nicholas Cage stars as Peter, an asshole of a New York editor who has a breakdown, and thinks he’s a vampire after coming in contact with Jennifer Beals. Sure, this falls into the same category as Romero’s MARTIN, but there’s a dark comedy element that runs through the storyline. Even so, the ending’s powerful and leaves one to wonder about the psyche and what makes us collapse within ourselves. And no, Cage didn’t eat a live cockroach for this one – he ate two.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer: James V. Hart
Hardcore fans of Stoker’s celebrated novel hate this version, but I love the “comic book” atmosphere, the over-acting, and the old world special effects. If you want that fun horror romp, this is the one Dracula tale you don’t want to miss. Wojciech Kilar’s score is phenomenal (check out his music for THE NINTH GATE), and Gary Oldman delivers one of the most poignant, in your face performances of the Count you’re apt to see – a reptilian-like, frenzied edge to Christopher Lee’s top-of-the-food-chain self-assuredness. No scares, but a definite good time.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: Anne Rice
I loved Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and the movie would’ve been made in the 80s with Rutger Hauer as Lestat, but Rice seemed to be her own worst enemy and pissed off a lot of people from what I’ve heard. She was enraged that Tom Cruise had been chosen to play Lestat, but calmed down after she saw him in character. Yes, this is the book on screen, and the film introduced the world to Kirsten Dunst. Oddly, Brandon Lee was originally chosen to have played Louis, but he died on the set of THE CROW, and if River Phoenix hadn’t over-dosed, he would have portrayed Daniel Malloy. Regardless, it’s a strong tale of a reluctant vampire.
Director/Writer: Larry Fessenden
Fessenden is no stranger to horror as a writer, director, and even an actor, but this is my favorite of his work. This dramatic story takes place in New York City where Sam (Fessenden) meets Anna (Meredith Snaider in her only acting role). But it’s not just love, Sam thinks she may be a vamp, and we’re left to wonder along with him till the bitter end. The movie may be slow for some, but the atmosphere, grit, and character interaction is as fabulous as it is enthralling.
Blood: The Last Vampire (Japan, 2000)
Director: Hiroyuki Kitakubo
Writers: Kenji Kamiyama and Katsuya Terada
Kitakubo was the key animator for the stellar film AKIRA, and he brought his skills to this kickass adventure as well. We watch Saya (voiced by Yuki Kudo) enter an American school in Japan during the Vietnam War to hunt down and assassinate some vamps. This is a short feature probably because the amazing animation just cost so damn much. Oh, and avoid the live action version like you would a zombie plague.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Director: David Slade
Writers: Steve Niles, Stuart Beattie, and Brian Nelson.
Based on the celebrated comic by Niles and Ben Templesmith, Josh Hartnett plays Eben Olesen, a heartbroken sheriff who must work with his estranged wife (Melissa George) to save Barrow, Alaska from a vampiric raid during thirty days of darkness. The themes are big and riveting, and the action gripping, even though the writers and Slade made some serious errors in regard to geography, meteorology, and law enforcement. But if you want a vamp film with bite, this is it.
Let the Right One In (Sweden, 2008)
Director: Thomas Alfredson
Writer: John Ajvid Lindqvist
The tale involves bullied Oskar (Kare Hederbrandt) who finds friendship with Eli (Lena Leanderson), the bizarro girl next door, from Lindqvist’s novel. Though low budget, this dramatic horror delivers on an intense scale thanks to a great story inhabited with great actors, as well as compelling cinematography. Beyond the obvious, the ending should leave you with dark questions.
Midnight Son (2011)
Director/Writer: Scott Leberecht
Low budget and rock solid, this feature is the latest in the “Is this person a vampire?” category. The dramatic storyline and its themes are poignant, and the film serves as a great surprise for independent horror cinema. The mystery and suspense create an embracing journey for the audience because Leberecht doesn’t necessarily follow the expected formulaic trail. Zak Kilberg and Maya Parish deliver as blossoming lovers who face a very dark night.
I know, I know: No classic movies?! You’re a bastard! So I’ve been told. However, these are my favorites, and even with literature, as well as everything in my life, I’m not usually drawn to the tried and true. Granted, I greatly appreciate and respect Christopher Lee’s ten incarnations as Count Dracula, and love Bela Lugosi, but none of their films have blown my mind in some grand fashion.
However, here are some other vampirific films to engage your mind: BLACK SUNDAY (Italy, 1960), DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Belgium/France/West Germany, 1971), MARTIN (1976), THE HUNGER (UK, 1983), FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), VAMP (1986), THE LOST BOYS (1987), THE ADDICTION (1995), SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000), UNDERWORLD (UK/Germany/Hungary/USA, 2003), MAREBITO (Japan, 2004), THIRST (Korea, 2009), and STAKE LAND (2010).
(Photo from Collider.)